The Importance of a College Education (changing your mind set)

Recently I have seen a lot of articles that address the question of whether or not it is worth it for recent high school graduates to receive a college education today. All of the authors bring up different points for why a college education may not be the best choice for many prospective students. Here are some of the most common points that have been addressed.

  • 4 million college graduates are currently preforming jobs that do not require a college education. (I am one of them!)
  • The average college student will leave college with $20,000 in student loan debt. (Luckily I am not one of them.)
  • There is an ongoing debate over whether or not a college education directly prepares someone for the workforce.

We also know that there are thousands of college graduates that are currently not employed at all. So If 4 million college graduates have a job that they did not even need a degree to obtain, why would so many students put themselves into debt that will take years to pay off in order to go to school?

I also agree that college is not the right choice for many high school graduates. And considering only 28% of the country has a Bachelors Degree or higher, it appears many people in this country have also realized college is not for them. But I think that we should change our mindset on what a college education is supposed to do for you, especially in undergrad. I think that if the general population had a better attitude about what college actually is, we would see that college would begin to offer us more opportunities than we realize. A lot of people have misconceptions about what a college education is supposed to provide, and these ideas just aren’t true. Because of this, many people invest a lot more than they should in college, thinking they will get more out of it than they actually do. And becuase of this we wind up reading articles about whether or not college is really worth it.

These are some of the misconceptions (in my opinion) I commonly see about college:

  • You go to college because it will make it much easier to find a job.
  • You go to college because it will directly prepare you for the workforce and your future job, as long as you major in the field you plan to work for.
  • College education= Career, not job. $$$, not $.

All of these ideas have some truth to them for sure. But they are not the whole truth. I think this is the reality:

College is a very important part of your resume. And a good school will offer you a better education. But college is just one step (a large step for sure) on the staircase to getting a job in your dream career field. Just going to college won’t do you much good. While you are there you must go the extra step. Become involved in something, anything, and work on that while in school. Become involved in activities that correlate to your eventual career of choice. Join a campus organization or volunteer your time at a non-profit. Create a blog to post your creative writing and photographs, edit a video on an interesting topic. Internship in a field that interests you. Take something you enjoy and work very hard to show how much it means to you. These activities will mean a great deal more to your future employer than your college transcript. (Assuming your didn’t fail every class.)

If everyone had this mindset, I don’t think we would see as many students with $100,000 in student loan debt (how does that even happen?) and many people would have a difficult time justifying the $50,000 per year tuition bills some of these universities are charging. The price of higher education in this country is something that just doesn’t sit right with me at all. I actually think it is the key reason many people are discussing whether or not college is “worth it.” I went to a state school, and my final tuition bill after 4 years was less than or equal to one year at a private institution. Although I might have missed out on a few connections or benefits, I think you would have difficulty arguing that those students benefited 75% more than me and my classmates.

So even though I may have just insulted higher education and explained that I do not consider college a clear path to gaining a job, I still think that college is a very valuable experience for a lot of people. These are some positive aspects about college that I think are pretty universal:

  • You learn to move outside of your comfort zone and live and with people outside of your immediate family.
  • You learn how to manage between the extreme freedoms that college provides and demands and work that it requires. (Time management skills, hangover management skills…)
  • You discover who you truly are outside of the life that your family and friends created for you.
  • For many college is the first time that you realize that education can be empowering and engaging.

These aspects are a lot more abstract then the misconceptions I listed above. I think the honest truth is college is a gamble for many people. College is a time to grow, a time to fail, and a time to succeed before the pressure of “real life.” It teaches you how to make mistakes and create good things before you actually hit the workforce. In essence, I think the college experience is what you are paying for when you send a child to school. It doesn’t guarantee a job, it doesn’t guarantee success. At such high tuition prices these days, this is not what many parents and students with hefty loans want to hear. But although the benefits of college may not be as clear and tangible as many think, I believe a college education is tremendously valuable just the same.

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